Strike action – North West Ambulance Service current position
Discussions are still ongoing regarding the extent of the action by North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) staff on Monday 13 October, when a national strike takes place between the hours of 7.00am and 11.00am.
To reiterate, the action is a national pay dispute and is not specific to North West Ambulance Service – it does not relate to any Trust policy.
NWAS recognises three unions – Unison (which has the largest membership share), Unite and GMB. All three have now given the Trust an indication as to the level of service they will ask members to provide, some of the main areas are listed below;
•GMB – will facilitate ambulance crews to attend Red 1, Red 2, Green trauma related incidents and 100 per cent staffing in control centres.
•Unite – will facilitate ambulance crews to attend Red 1, Red 2, Green trauma related incidents and 100 per cent staffing in control centres.
•Unison – will facilitate ambulance crews if they wish to attend any Red 1 and 2 incidents with only 50 per cent of staff in control centres
Both Red 1 and 2 categories are for life-threatening and potentially life-threatening calls and have national response target of eight minutes.
Patient Transport Service patients with renal, oncology and paediatric appointments will still be available between the hours of 7am and 11am, while patients attending other outpatient appointments are being advised to contact their clinic to check the appointment is still going ahead, as there will be no patient transport service during that time – even for those who have already booked.
Unison members working for 111 have not been exempted which potentially, could mean a reduced staffing level for the service, however, the Trust doesn’t believe this will be significant.
Director of Emergency Services, Derek Cartwright said: “Our discussions with the unions on the subject of exemptions are still ongoing and there is still the possibility that things could change. We really won’t know until the day how many staff are going on strike or how many will agree to attend incidents.
“We’re very pleased there has been recognition that a service is needed for those with life-threatening conditions but we would like to see Unison exemptions in line with our other recognised unions. Their proposal means we could struggle to find crews who are happy to attend these calls.
“Crews are also being instructed to return to the picket line once they have taken a patient to hospital which means the Trust will not be able to allocate the crew to an incident occurring on their way back to the picket line.”
The Trust is exploring all avenues to maintain as much of the service as possible and volunteer agencies such as Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and mountain rescue teams have confirmed they will be available to respond to patients during the strike. However, with a severely reduced workforce likely, the Trust is warning that patients will experience delays on Monday morning, especially those with non life-threatening conditions, who may be advised to seek alternatives such as a walk-in centre.
Says Derek: “We have written to the unions to outline what we believe the Trust needs to provide a safe service for patients and these restrictions are of concern to us. We will continue to negotiate to find a solution which minimises risk and ensures we can reach as many patients as possible during that time.”
The Trust continues to ask the public to ensure ambulances are free to attend those with a critical need for emergency treatment and to contact their GP or speak with a pharmacist if their case is not urgent. The priority will be reaching those with life-threatening conditions. Patient transport service patients are also reminded that there will be no transport available between 7am and 11am on Monday 13 October.
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